In my last post I talked about one of Christianity’s most popular passages and the LDS interpretation of it. Now I would like to look at arguably the most popular of all passages, John 3:16. Christians down through the years have cherished this verse. It has often been called the gospel in a nutshell because in it Jesus gives a wonderful summary of the gospel.
It was spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus. I quote it in its context. “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Jesus is talking about the most important subjects: eternal life – not being condemned – being saved. And they all hinge on one thing: believing. Jesus uses that word no less than five times in this short paragraph. It’s all about believing in Jesus – especially believing in his crucifixion. That’s obviously what he is referring to in v. 14.
Jesus’ reference to that Old Testament story is very instructive. It is recorded in Numbers 21. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” They lived by looking. That’s it. And that is what believing is. It’s looking to Jesus and his death on the cross. That is the key to eternal life. It’s no wonder that John 3:16 has been the most popular of all Bible verses.
But it’s not even referred to in the most thorough LDS manual on the New Testament, the 500 page manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles. The closest you get is the following: “What is available to you if you accept the Lord’s sayings and constantly strive to obey the Lord’s commandments? (See John 3:13-15.)” That’s it. And what is so distressing is that, as can be seen above, John 3:13-15 doesn’t mention any need to “constantly strive to obey the Lord’s commandments”. There is a total disconnect between the question and the reference to John 3:13-15.
No mention of John 3:16. A brief reference to John 3:13-15 that is very misleading. That is how Mormonism’s official manual on the New Testament treats this precious passage of Scripture.